London — Islington

Once you’ve seen the Big Ben and lurked about the alleyways around Buckingham Palace hoping for a glimpse of Wills and Kate there are all sorts of other fun parts of London to explore. Islington has a number of very good and moderately priced (by London standards) restaurants.  An excellent choice is the not new, but still buzzing Moro (http://www.moro.co.uk/moro/restaurant/default.asp) in Exmouth Market where you can sample brown crab on toast, crispy fried snails with fennel and perfect pork belly.  Perfect.
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On a side note American restaurateurs please look at these photos. The key is moist belly topped by crispy crackling.  There’s pork belly on almost every menu in the states these days. But the crackling, it’s just never quite right. Always sort of gummy instead of that snappy porky goodness.
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Once you’re done bemoaning the lamentable state of American crackling you can pop up to the pedestrian friendly thoroughfare that is Camden Passage (just a block from the Angel Tube Station).

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Swing by Paul A. Young (http://www.paulayoung.co.uk/) for interesting and delectable flavors of chocolate including rose, balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.

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Pop into the Elk In the Woods (http://www.the-elk-in-the-woods.co.uk/) for a refreshing watermelon martini and do some shopping at the so very British Suzy Harper (http://www.susyharper.co.uk/), the preppy Abercrombie-esq Jack Wills or any of the charming antique shops/vendors that line the alley.

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Then move on up Upper Street for dinner at Isarn Thai (http://www.isarn.co.uk/) or  Ottolenghi (http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/locations/islington/).  Isarn is owned by the sister of Alan Yau of Hakkasan fame. Not to be missed are the thom kha, crispy duck salad and roasted pork.  Ottolenghi only has cold food for lunch but at dinner the asparagus and pine nut or fig and mozzarella salads should be sampled if either is on the menu, along with any lamb dish, another decadent pork belly and some excellent grilled shell on shrimp.

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If you have some extra time walk a few more blocks and check out the excellent vintage finds at Palette on Canonbury lane (http://www.palette-london.com/) where you might run into Emma Watson and grab coffee and tiramisu at the always friendly Cantina Italia. If you’re still able to keep going have a nightcap at 25 Canonbury Lane before heading home.

Torrisi Italian Specialties and Kin Shop

One bad post deserves a good one to counteract it I say.  Reading this NYT Magazine article reminded me of our most recent trip to New York (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/magazine/mag-01Torrisi-t.html?ref=dining).  Actually it wasn’t that recent. We didn’t take any photos. I should have written this ages ago.   But we did eat at two excellent locations.  Better late than never right? I will keep it brief but if you find yourself in New York anytime soon you should check out:
Torrisi Italian Specialties: By day it’s a tiny deli.  By night it’s a cramped restaurant that doesn’t take bookings. But it’s still awesome. You stand in line for a table at around 5 pm.  They tell you to come back in 2 to 4 hours (you spend those two to four hours drinking at the Pegu Club).  You arrive and wait a little more. You’re cold.  You’re annoyed.  You’re hungry. Then they seat you. And all of a sudden there’s a ball of fresh mozzarella on garlic toast sitting before you and all is right with the world. It’s just the beginning of a delightful culinary parade.  Save the cheese, the menu changes each night so no point in a play-by-play. If you get any sweetbreads or gnocchi though, you might end up like me and think the whole ordeal of getting a table was totally worth it :). Plus it’s only 50/person bucks for a ton of food and they have the cutest mascot you can imagine.
Kin Shop: The Bob isn’t a huge fan of Thai food but he recently mentioned that this was his favorite new restaurant in quite a long time. Trust me, if you had any idea how hard it is to get him to a Thai restaurant you would realize that’s no faint praise. This isn’t traditional Thai food but I would hesitate to use that awful word … fusion. What it is, is great whatever kind of food it is in a nice atmosphere with charming service. Standouts include the marrow bones, goat curry and the pork part of the fried pork and oyster salad. The Bob also loved the duck breast.  It didn’t really do much for me though which is sad because I usually love me some duck.  But overall, I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Cleaning Services

I had been using MaidPro of Capitol Hill but had to stop because they couldn’t actually get the place clean – or even close to clean.  I gave them numerous chances and they kept charging me but failing to clean or fulfil the very attractive promises they make on their website (http://www.maidpro.com/capitolhill/). I would come home excited about a clean house and then end up having to scrub it myself. Since the point of the site is to provide helpful information I’m posting about this particular experience so nobody who reads this makes the mistake of using their service. Since a picture is worth a thousand words here is what my kitchen floor looked like after a recent cleaning:

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